AlabamaElections

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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Change is Good

After nearly six months of publishing AlabamaElections, I will no longer be able to actively maintain the blog. I have taken the position of Communications Director with the Alabama Democratic Party. As Communications Director, my focus obviously will be on forwarding a unified Democratic message and a blog issuing independent analysis would not be compatible with such a position.

The job with the ADP has come into focus only in the last couple of weeks. Although I've always had my own personal beliefs, I've attempted to give nonpartisan political analysis. I feel that longtime readers of AlabamaElections can attest to my relatively nonpartisan approach and willingnesss to provide expression for other points of view.

I am not fully sure what will happen to AlabamaElections, but I do know that I will no longer be personally involved in daily blogging. I'd like to see the blog continue in some manner, but it is not clear at this time how that will occur. I will continue to maintain the AlabamaElections Directory and still seek reader input on all the latest candidate entries/withdrawals.

Thanks for reading AlabamaElections. It has been rewarding to see this blog grow from double digit traffic in early September to the several hundred individuals who currently read the site daily. I've enjoyed being a part of this forum and have been fortunate to get to know many of you. I look forward to keeping in touch. Please feel free to let me know if I can be of assistance. Thanks,

Zac

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Weekend Wrap-Up


-- Great Birmingham News analysis on campaign funding in the governor's race. Moore's money comes mostly from out of state while Riley gets most of his from PACs. Siegelman has plenty of Alabama support, but it doesn't add up to much and Baxley is a combination of all of the above.

-- New Poll on Riley Approval: 52% approval/43% disapproval . Last month had the Guv at 52/40.

-- Bush's approval actually improved in Alabama this month, while sinking at the national level. A new poll has him with 53% approval and 44% disapproval. Last month had him at 50/47 in Alabama. The improvement in Alabama comes as Bush's numbers actually ticked downward nationwide.

-- Speaking of the governor, the Hotline ranks Riley as the 15th most vulnerable governor (out of 38). That number does not sound especially high, but Riley is sandwiched between Govs Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), who are both embattled incumbents with weak poll numbers. Not inspiring bookends for Riley.

-- Net activist Dr IQ has apparently gotten Don Siegelman on the record in favor of "Initiative and Referendum". You can see Siegelman's (and many others) reaction to I&R advocacy at Dr IQ's site.

-- Roy Moore broke with his campaign strategy recently and talked at length about the 2003 monument controversy.

-- Wire story on Ed Packard's run for Secretary of State.

-- Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy knows he wants to run for a seat on the Civil Appeals Court, he just doesn't know which one.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Packard to run for Sec of State

Ed Packard, an elections specialist in the Secretary of State's office, will run for that office's top job. After previous stints in the AL and NC SoS office, Packard has served as "administrator of elections" in Alabama since 1997.

Packard, who resides in Prattville, seems to be an authority in the field of election administration as he's penned articles for academic journals as well as many Alabama newspapers. Packard even maintains a blog in which he lends his expertise to items of the day.

Packard will run as a Democrat, but has served under administrations of both parties. Though Packard's qualifications seem unassailable, the political path in front of him will not be easy to navigate. Packard would not only have to dispatch incumbent Nancy Worley in the primary, but also face quasi-incumbent Auditor Beth Chapman in the general.

There are too many unanswered political questions at the moment to fully gauge Packard's chances, but it is encouraging to see individuals with obvious expertise and experience in their field who are willing to enter the public arena to serve.

'70 Wallace/Brewer Race "Most Negative Campaign of All Time"

Yesterday, I saw a review of what looks to be a fascinating new book, "Mudslingers : The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time Countdown from No. 25 to No. 1" , by Kerwin C. Swint.

As the title implies, Swint chronicles the 25 nastiest political campaigns in American history. The book spans the gamut from presidential elections to state and local, discussing contests from 1800 to 2004. (If you're curious to see which 25 made the list, you can view the book's table of contents.)

And in 200+ years and thousands upon thousands of elections, the 1970 Alabama Democratic gubernatorial primary between Albert Brewer and George Wallace ranks as the most negative campaign in the entire expanse of the American Experiment.

What can possibly make that campaign so infamous? Rollcall interviewed the author who explained his reasoning.

However, Swint explained, it was a clear-cut choice for the top slot after research revealed one glaring detail that was actually an amalgam of glaring details.

"It[the BrewerWallacee race] has so many of the factors that other campaigns have one of, but this one had all of them," Swint said. "It had the racial comments, the betrayal, the dirty tricks on the wives, the name-calling. It had everything.

"It could have very well taken place in 1870 instead of 1970."
I haven't read Swint's book, but I'd imagine two of the salient characteristics of the '70 campaign are the beyond the pale (even for him) race-baiting by Wallace and his allies and the several hundred-thousand dollars funneled to the Brewer campaign by Richard Nixon.

If you want to brush up on the history, Steve Flowers dedicated an entire column to the 1970 race during his recent series recapping gubernatorial contests. Also I'd recommend the PBS documentary "Setting the Woods on Fire" or Dan Carter's book "The Politics of Rage" if you're interested in the 1970 race and the Wallace era in general.

I know many in Alabama like to think that our state has its own unique brand of politics, and while that may be hyperbole at times, "Mudslingers" demonstrates that Alabama politics is certainly worthy of at least some level of infamy. And I think that's just how we like it.

Riley, Brooks Victorious in Marshall County GOP Straw Poll

The Marshall County GOP hosted a straw poll and a forum for Lt Gov candidates on Valentine's Day.

Below are the results:

Gov
Riley: 59%
Moore: 32
Other: 9

Lt Gov
Brooks: 92%
Wallace: 3
Others: 5
Adams: 0
Strange: 0

The Gov numbers seem relatively consistent with what you'd expect, especially considering that Moore's strength does not usually lie in party regulars.

And as you might could glean from the LG results, Brooks was the only candidate to attend the pre-poll forum.

Marshall County Chair Jason Upton's thoughts on the proceedings:

"Mo Brooks simply did an outstanding job in the Lt. Governor's forum. I don't think I've ever heard a candidate for Lt. Governor who had such a clear vision and so many ideas and such a grasp on what he would do if elected. Its clear Mo Brooks is a true conservative running for Lt. Governor. And that's what Marshall County Republicans appear to want."
And Mo Brooks' reaction to what promises to be one of the high points of his campaign:
"I am very gratified by Marshall County's strong support.”

"I believe the reason for Marshall County's strong support is simple. Republican voters want conservative leadership, and Mo Brooks is the only proven conservative running for Lt. Governor.”
Even though Mo Brooks engages in the dreadful habit of citing himself in the third-person, it's good to see Mo Brooks get a notch in his belt as Mo Brooks has been working the campaign trail as hard as anyone.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Judicial Endorsement Intrigue

You'll remember a couple of weeks ago that the BCA raised some eyebrows by pointedly leaving State Supreme Court Justices Champ Lyons and Tom Woodall off it's endorsement list. Some interpreted this snub as only a minor rift that would surely resolve itself in due course. Others, however, saw a broader message being sent as the BCA publicly distanced themselves from their erstwhile allies. A latest round of business group judicial endorsements might indicate the original BCA snub was indeed representative of a significant split between Lyons and Woodall and GOP leaning business groups.

The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (which is comprised of 100 member organizations like the BCA, Forestry, Bankers, Realtors, etc.) released its judicial endorsements yesterday. Like the BCA slate, the ACJRC backed Nabers, Lyn Stuart, and Glenn Murdock for State Supreme Court. And like the BCA, the ACJRC also left out Lyons and Woodall.

Speculation on how precisely Lyons and Woodall lost unabashed business backing has been rampant. Have these justices been too cozy with trial lawyers for BCA tastes or is it simply personal conflicts with influential individuals? The ACJRC didn't specifically address the Lyons/Woodall snub, but their their ED Tom Dart did say of the endorsed slate, "These jurists have established themselves as strong conservatives who have helped change the reputation of our high courts from ridicule to praise,". So apparently the same statement does not apply to Lyons or Woodall.

Well, at least not at the moment. It's possible the ACJRC (and BCA for that matter) could endorse either or both Lyons and Woodall in the weeks to come.

But even if future business-lobby endorsements include the currently spurned justices, some amount of damage has to have been done to their relationship due to this second, very public rebuke.

Jim Zeigler Embarrasses Congressional GOP

Yes, that Jim Zeigler.

Here's the situation (from the AP):

WASHINGTON - A clerk's mistake could mean a budget bill President Bush signed isn't technically law, but congressional Republicans said again Wednesday they have no plans to try to fix the problem.

Even though Alabama attorney Jim Zeigler has filed a lawsuit charging the $39 billion deficit-cutting legislation Bush signed is unconstitutional because the House and Senate failed to pass identical versions, House GOP leaders insist there's no problem.

"I believe that it's law," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt.

Not so, says Zeigler, a Republican activist.

"An eighth-grader in civics class knows that a bill cannot become law unless the identical bill passes the House and Senate and is signed by the president," Zeigler said.
Zeigler apparently represents elderly groups that he feels might be adversely affected by the budget cuts and is trying to void the law in federal court by pressing the issue of the clerk's error. And instead of re-voting on the budget, GOP leaders are content to roll the dice that the courts won't enforce the letter of the law.

The US House only passed the budget by a scant 216-214 vote, so they don't want the stress of a re-vote or for their vulnerable members to have to cast yet another controversial vote.

So now conservative GOP activist Jim Zeigler is now teamed with Congressional Democrats in trying to force the House to address the budget again.

(I considered giving a brief background on Mr. Zeigler but decided it might be best left up to some of our more knowledgeable and/or colorful commenters.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Moore Fires Shot Across AL GOP Bow

Roy Moore has taken the first step on a path that could dramatically change the 2006 election landscape. Yesterday, Moore called on GOP chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh to relinquish her position until the June GOP primary.

Andress, according to Moore, "is clearly using her position to favor a particular candidate". Andress' support of Riley has "betrayed" Republican voters, in Moore's words.

Moore cites a recent state GOP newsletter in which Twinkle writes, " ...Alabamians have benefited from the strong Republican leadership of ...Gov. Riley...in building our economy and handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." Moore says statements such as this break the neutrality incumbent upon the GOP chair.

Moore has to know that his calls for Twinkle's recusal will fall on deaf ears. But by publicly accusing the Alabama Republican hierarchy of a pro-Riley bias, Moore has developed a possible rationale for an independent (or Constitution Party) bid. The argument would go something like, "If Roy Moore can't get a "fair shake" in the GOP primary, what other option does he have?".

I am not claiming that I know for a fact that Moore will run as an independent in November, but his press conference yesterday could be an initial step in a series of events that could lead to that conclusion. And if that happens you don't need me to tell you that media from around the world will descend upon the circus that is the Alabama governor's race.

Irons/Smith Special Election Set

Florence attorney William E. Smith easily bested fellow Republican John Hargett in last night's special election primary for State House District 001. Smith won the low-turnout Valentine's Day election with 79% of the vote. Smith's combination of state and local party support and an at least 8 to 1 money advantage vastly outweighed Hargett's deeper party roots.

Smith now advances to the March 21 general election against Democrat Tammy Irons. Irons has long been considered the frontrunner and is expected to hold onto the seat for the Democrats.

Perhaps more interesting than the actual result will be the margin. While Republicans aren't especially optimistic on their chances in the special, there have been rumors of stronger GOP candidates (e.g. Steve Pierce) emerging for the November election. An Irons rout in March could short circuit Republican plans for a stronger future challenger, whereas a strong Smith showing could further embolden Republican recruitment efforts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

V-Day Variety

-- Another Siegelman lawyer flies the coop...

-- I'm told that Brad Warren (D- Mobile) is pulling the plug on his campaign in the 1st Congressional District, leaving incumbent Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) unopposed...

-- Lauderale County Commissioner Mike Curtis (D) will run in HD 002 against GOP Rep Lynn Greer. I discussed the ramifications of a potential Curtis candidacy a couple of weeks ago, but now that he's in the race with both feet a Curtis/Greer face-off will be one of the better general election matchups.

-- Vestavia-ites unhappy with "tree removal" by state Dept of Transportation...

-- 3rd Congressional District candidate Mark Edwin Layfield has now collected enough signatures to appear on the November ballot as an Independent. Layfield also has his campaign website up...

-- Lucy Baxley doesn't mind saying where she stands on issues, but apparently reporters "never ask me how I feel" ...

-- Political consultant George Oldroyd (R) has announced his bid to oust State Sen, and former ally, Hank Erwin. Oldroyd joins Shelby County Commissioner Jon Parker in the GOP primary as this race looks increasingly likely to result in a runoff.

-- The special election in HD 31 is heating up as a new website is taking Republican Barry Mask to task for his comments indicating a willingess to raise taxes. Mask had denied making such remarks, but the site is kind enough to provide an audio recording of the speech in question.

GOP Primary for Special Election Today

Republican voters in Lauderdale county-based State House District 001, will go to the polls today to choose a nominee in the March 21 special election to replace the late Nelson Starkey. Tammy Irons was the sole Democrat to file and thus automatically advanced to the general election.

The Republican primary pits William E. Smith (an attorney and recent Democratic convert) against veteran GOP activist John Hargett. Smith has raised more money than Hargett ($29K to less than $5K) but Hargett's long history with the local party may outweigh the newcomer's financial edge.

Most GOP leaders would probably prefer to see Smith as the nominee, but in a low turnout affair it is difficult to predict a winner. If forced, I'd bet on a Smith win in the mid to high 50% range, but Hargett can't be counted out.

But whichever candidate wins the GOP primary is likely to find it a pyrrhic victory as Democrat Tammy Irons is widely regarded as a heavy favorite in the general.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday Quick Takes

--Another Baptist church fire...

-- Riley leading Moore 56-28 in GOP primary poll...

-- State Rep Oliver Robinson drops his State Sen bid due to illness. Incumbent State Sen Sundra Escott still faces a challenge from State Rep Linda Coleman.

-- State House GOP's hardball tactics gain notice...

-- Tom Parker's latest controversy...

-- Advertiser profiles Barry Mask and Bobby Payne before Feb 28 State House special election...

-- JeffCo Commissioner Mary Buckelew (R) won't run for re-election. State Rep Bobby Humphryes (R) now the favorite?

-- Hilbun Adams announces his bid for Lt Gov. Hey, he's never heard of you either.

Feel free to discuss any of the above or whatever political news is on your mind.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Poll Position in Senate District 14

[Post delayed due to network problems]

Even before campaign finance improprieties threatened to derail his path to a second term, Hank Erwin was not in a particularly strong political position. Multiple conservative-leaning interest groups have made efforts to lure a high profile opponent to take on the controversial Erwin. In fact ALFA even commissioned a poll in November to gauge Erwin's vulnerability and lure challengers into the race. The poll tested head-to-head matchups pitting Erwin against potential GOP challengers Ex State Sen Bill Armistead, State Reps Mike Hill and Cam Ward, and Shelby County Commissioner Jon Parker.

The results are as follows:

Armistead 58% - Erwin 35%
Hill 54% - Erwin 35%
Ward 54% - Erwin 36%
Parker 38% - Erwin 36%


Now the good news for Erwin is that Armistead, Hill, and Ward are not expected to run. But with Erwin seemingly stuck at 36% in a two-man race, his political fortunes don't appear especially bright either. With Shelby County Commissioner Jon Parker and political consultant George Oldroyd already opposing Erwin (and with the possibility of an expanding field should the campaign finance flap continue to grow), Hank Erwin looks to have an uphill path to a second term.

With only a handful of incumbents facing strong challengers, Hank Erwin's re-election bid is shaping up to be one of the more compelling primary races and Erwin one of the most vulnerable incumbents.

Erwin's Radio Activity

[Post delayed due to network problems]

Yesterday I discussed the campaign finance scandal that is starting to swirl around State Sen Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo). Erwin appeared on the Matt Murphy radio program to try and defend some of the eyebrow raising expenses listed on his campaign finance disclosures. I did not hear the interview, but I've talked to those who have who don't think Erwin did himself much good. I hope to be able to link to an audio version of the interview at some point over the next few days. But until then I'll just hit a couple of the highlights.

Erwin was pressed on his use of campaign money to finance an October 2002 trip to Israel. Of course, as Erwin is still serving his first term in the legislature, not only had he not been sworn in as of October 2002 but also hadn't even been elected. Erwin defended the Israel jaunt as a "fact finding trip" and effort to bring "nano technology" to Alabama.

Also discussed was $2400 worth of contributions (from Erwin's campaign fund) to purchase tickets to Bob Riley's inaugural ball. According to Erwin he dispersed these tickets (approx 20) to unpaid campaign volunteers. However, this was disputed later in the program when revealed that Erwin gave tickets to an individual he had paid $500 to during the campaign.

One additional topic of conversation was Erwin's use of his campaign warchest to purchase Alabama and Auburn football tickets. Erwin defended these expenses as a constituent service. Apparently, Erwin would distribute these tickets to constituents upon request. So next time you need Iron Bowl tickets, give your state legislator a call.

Those are just a few of the issues discussed during the interview and I hope to be able to link to a copy of the real thing in the next few days.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Exclusive: Hank Erwin's Money Mess

State Senator Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo) is about to find himself the main player in a sordid Montgomery tale of corruption. Erwin is most (in)famous for his comments in the wake of Hurricane Katrina blaming the storms on "gambling, sin, and wickedness". Unfortunately for Erwin it looks like his problems will no longer be confined strictly to rhetorical excess.

I'm told the story will make the mainstream press any day now and ethics charges will be filed in the very near future.

The basic arc of the story is this: Erwin used money from his campaign account for obviously personal expenditures.

The interesting thing about these charges is that most of the potentially damning information is already a matter of public record. That is, many of the violations that will be alleged can be viewed by anyone with a computer via the Secretary of State's website.

Search Erwin's filings and draw your own conclusions. But from conversations with those in the know and my own perusal of his filings, I think I can identify a few expense items that are likely to be sources of upcoming attention:

-- A 10/30/2002 payment of $2,354 to "BJF Programs" for an "Israel fact finding trip".
-- Two payments on consecutive nights in July 2003 for international hotel accommodations. One for $311 in Brussels and one for $645 in Romania.
-- A $207 tab at Los Angeles' Toscona restaurant in September 2003 for a "film preservation lunch".

Erwin's expenditures on football tickets, restaurants, and other amenities might also come under scrutiny. Also it's possible that issues of payments to family members might arise.

Now I am obviously not an attorney or overly familiar with the campaign finance statutes, but many of these items don't seem to be comply with the spirit of the campaign finance law. And some who know more than I, believe these expenses go further than that and actually violate the actual letter of the law.

This is definitely a story to watch, as I'm told it will develop in the media (radio, print) in the days to come. Unfortunately for Hank Erwin this story doesn't look to have a happy ending.

Tomorrow I'll continue with this story, including exclusive polling and information regarding the potential fallout in Erwin's State Senate district.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

New Poll Gives Riley Slight Lead

Rasmussen Reports conducted a poll in late January testing potential general election matchups in the Alabama governor's race. See the Rasmussen site for information on the methodology and their brief analysis of the results. The results are as follows:


Riley (R): 47%
Baxley (D): 40%

Riley (R): 49%
Siegelman (D): 40%

Baxley (D): 50%
Moore (R): 39%

Siegelman (D): 46%
Moore (R): 40%

Obviously Riley is ahead and in the most enviable current position. But it has to be a little distressing to his supporters that he can't break 50% even against a candidate with as much baggage as Don Siegelman. Since his successful handling of Hurricane Katrina events have generally been favorable to the governor. But this poll shows that he still has some work to do. Of course his $4 million warchest will be an asset down the stretch.

This poll should also encourage the Baxley camp as it shows her poised to give Riley a serious race and if she gets a couple of breaks then maybe even come out on top.

Obviously Roy Moore's numbers are pretty bad, but surprisingly enough Don Siegelman doesn't seem to be as mortally wounded as most observers have estimated. Depending on the result of his trial, maybe it will turnout that the results of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Last Word (and photo) on Stormie-Gate

As I mentioned yesterday, DC dirt blog Wonkette has taken the lead in digging into the Stormie affair.

Not only was Wonkette kind enough to provide a link to my blog when first discussing the story, but she, in a separate piece, referenced several reader comments from my original post on the matter. So if you commented on my original piece, there's a good chance your comment is now up on one of the internet's most widely read political blogs. (Click here to see which reader comments from my post on Monday made Wonkette's cut.)

But the real news (and a demonstration of Wonkette's skill) is the emergence of the photo that started off the whole shebang. Wonkette somehow got a hold of the now infamous photo of the Sessions aide exposing her "midriff in open jeans, with her hands curved on her lap and the waistband of her underwear showing". You'll have to go to Wonkette's page to see the photo and decide for yourself whether it was worth all the excitement.

And with that, I think the chapter is closed on the Janzen affair. It was fun while it lasted.

GOP Blocks Bible Bill

One of the higher profile issues of the legislative session came to a head yesterday as Republicans in the State House used a procedural motion to prevent the "Bible Literacy Bill" from reaching the floor for debate.

The bill did have more proponents than detractors as 49 members voted in favor of the motion, while 42 opposed it. But supporters of the bill fell 7 votes short of the 60% necessary to override the procedural roadblock. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while only 3 Democrats (Laird, Mitchell, Morrison) voted against it. The AP has the rollcall of the vote.

It is interesting to see State House Republicans employ similar procedural tactics as liberal Democrats in the US Senate. Republicans often accuse Congressional Democrats of obstructionist tactics, but GOPers in the State House don't mind stealing a page out of their ideological opponents' playbook.

The bill's sponsor, and Majority Leader, Ken Guin (D-Carbon Hill) left open the possibility of bringing the bill up again, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Republicans voiced their objection to the bill's requirement of a specific text, but Democrats saw more politics than principle in the GOP opposition. "They didn't think of it first. They didn't want the Democrats to get credit for it," Alvin Holmes was quoted by the AP.

But Republicans don't expect any fallout from their blocking the Bible Literacy Bill, "I don't think people are going to believe that Republicans are against religion and don't want the Bible taught in schools," [GOP Leader Mike]Hubbard said.

I think legislative Democrats intend to put that to the test over the coming months.

AVC Values Blogs

For an organization that's only been on the political radar for a few weeks, the Alabama Values Coalition is making its presence felt.

You'll remember the AVC radio ads in early January that took Alabama Republican leader to task over the "loyalty oath". Those ads (still available on their site) sparked a small controversy with Republicans attacking the ads and the AVC. Some Republicans have identified the AVC as a "Democratic front group" and have questioned its funding sources.

The AVC has now started a blog on their site. Though the websites of Roy Moore and Don Siegelman both have curious imitations identified as "blogs", the AVC blog seems to be the Real McCoy. It plays hosts to regular updates as well as allowing comments from readers.

While the AVC is a relatively new entity, it is encouraging to see political groups of all types embracing the interactivity and possibility of the internet.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cheney Visit Nets $200K for Aderholt

Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in Priceville yesterday to help raise campaign funds for US Rep Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville). Cheney's most prominent remarks centered around the warrantless wiretapping story that's been in the news over the past weeks. Cheney, of course, defended the wiretaps as a necessary element in waging the "war on terror".

Cheney's speech was not as well attended as organizers had hoped. But the VP did help Aderholt raise approximately $200,000 for his currently nonexistent campaign. Individuals had to pony up $250 to attend and another $2,000 to get a photo with the Cheney. Organizers estimated an attendance of 560 people.

No word yet on Cheney's responses to the questions put forward by Alabama Democratic Chair Joe Turnham.

Stormie Story Goes National

Yesterday I talked about the aide to Jeff Sessions who, due to a combination of media inquiry and heavy-handed tactics by her superiors, was forced to remove her personal blog some had described as "racy" and sexy".

Unfortunately for the aide, Stormy Janzen, not only was the story picked up by the state wires but it has gotten the attention of some Beltway opinion makers. The D.C. R-rated scandal blog Wonkette discovered the story and ran with it (citing my blog among others), comparing it to other similar, if more notorious Capitol Hill scandals.

Learning from this experience and others in the past, will politicians apply anti-blog litmus tests to their aides in order to avoid this type of embarrassment in the future?

Oden Looks at County Race

I'm told that a story in the Cullman Times print edition discussed the possibility that State Rep Jeremy Oden (R-Cullman) is entertaining a run for Probate Judge. Until now, Oden had been considered likely to run for re-election.

Oden has managed to develop political enemies on both sides of the aisle, so his path to re-election could be complicated. Oden already has two opponents in the GOP primary and Democrats seem sure to field a strong challenger as well. A run for the Probate Judge seat (being vacated by Democrat Betty Brewer)would be no cakewalk, but if Oden is facing a tough race either way then maybe he'd just as soon roll the dice on the higher profile countywide office.

Though a vacancy is no sure thing, Oden's open State House seat could easily play host to one of the more competitive races of the cycle. Partisans on both sides of the aisle will be watching Oden's decision.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Jeff Sessions and the Case of the Sexy Blog

Stormie Janzen, an aide to Jeff Sessions, livened up this weekend's political reporting.

Apparently Janzen("single, straight and a Scorpio,") , a scheduler in Sessions' DC Senate office, maintained a blog on Myspace in which she dispensed her thoughts on "dating, hanging out with girlfriends, and one of her biggest turn-ons -- men in button-fly jeans".

It isn't clear how long Janzen's blog was actually online, but after recently posting a photo of her "midriff in open jeans, with her hands curved on her lap and the waistband of her underwear showing", pressures were brought to bear on Janzen to shut the blog down. So by Friday, her blog was no more.

The blog did not comment on Congressional business but does appear to have been maintained on official time. If true, this would violate the Senate handbook of conduct which does not permit such private activity during hours of official business.

Surprisingly enough Sessions' staff didn't seem to want to discuss the blog. But for better or worse it is now a thing of the past.

And for all those of you who were wondering, I am a Taurus.

Bedford in the Black

For reasons unbeknownst to me, it took a few days for Roger Bedford's latest campaign finance report to show up on the Secretary of State's site. But Bedford's filings are available now and show the veteran State Senator with a hefty warchest.

Bedford's report show him sitting on top of $346K cash-on-hand after raising over $450K over the past year.

I've updated my listing of the State Senate financial picture, but thought I'd mention it here as well.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The New Politics of Hunting

Gun rights have emerged as one of most potent single issues in American politics. During the Clinton era, Democrats began to embrace incremental gun control efforts. But many Democrats blamed such policies as part of the equation that cost their party votes in the South and West and rural areas all over the country. In fact, some party strategists blame gun issues as the primary reason Al Gore couldn't carry any Southern states during the 2000 election. With that issue off the table Gore might have carried Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, or West Virginia and
been elected president.

After the 2000 election Democrats jettisoned calls for stricter gun control and have essentially adopted the "just enforce what's already on the books" position. So John Kerry dons camouflage, totes a shotgun , and goes hunting in Ohio. Fresh Democratic faces like Wes Clark, Mark Warner, and Brian Schweitzer eagerly embrace 2nd amendment rights. Even DNC Chair Howard Dean was an NRA fave during his tenure as governor in Vermont.

Of course national Democrats are just figuring out what Alabama Democrats have known all along. Mainstream Alabama Democrats have always embraced gun rights and parted company with gun control advocates in the national party. Similarly Alabama Republicans are equally as strong as their national counterparts on the issue. There is really little to no difference on issues of gun rights between Alabama Democrats and Alabama Republicans.

I discuss this background as a means of mentioning an interesting article in the Washington Monthly analyzing the need for a possible new approach on these issues that could significantly alter the political landscape. The author, Christiana Larson, uses the declining number of hunters as a clarion call for action. Hunting as a past-time is not decreasing due to a lack of enthusiasm, but rather a lack of available hunting lands. I am unsure how present this phenomenon is in Alabama, but it is certainly affecting many parts of the country.

Larson sees a solution to this problem in an innovative policy approach that would bridge traditional ideological gaps.
The best hope for protecting this [outdoor]heritage probably rests with elected officials of a progressive bent, Republicans as well as Democrats--officials who are ideologically comfortable using government to assert a right bequeathed by America's political forefathers: that wildlife belongs not to private interests but to the public.
Larson argues that a combination of a conservative dedication to 2nd Amendment rights with a liberal approach to the preservation of public lands could foster a new policy of rebirth for the benefit of outdoorsmen. The article is lengthy and in-depth and one can certainly dispute its suppositions, but the author makes a provocative argument.

I am not an especially avid outdoorsman so I'd be interested in hearing the perspective on this line of thought from those who are.

Friday, February 03, 2006

BCA Snubs Lyons, Woodall

The BCA endorsements came out this week and contained most of the usual suspects one would expect. To no one's surprise the BCA backed Bob Riley, Troy King, Kay Ivey, Drayton Nabers, Lyn Stuart, and all incumbent GOP appeals judges. The backing of Glenn Murdock could have been a surprise if the move hadn't been telegraphed months ago. The BCA did take a little risk in supporting Luther Strange over frontrunner George Wallace Jr in the LG primary.

But, the real issue behind the BCA slate is not who they endorsed, but who they didn't. Conspicuously absent from this list of BCA buddies are GOP incumbent State Supreme Court Justices Champ Lyons and Tom Woodall.

Our more vigilant court observers can tell us if the decisions of Lyons and Woodall differ significantly from that of the other 6 (excluding BCA bane Tom Parker) GOP justices. But that would seem to be the obvious implication. Perhaps the BCA doesn't like Lyons or Woodall occasionally straying off the reservation and is firing a warning shot in attempt to bring them in line.

It'll be interesting to see if this snub has any repercusisons on the 2006 judicial elections and, even more importantly, on subsequent rulings.

Sabato Calls Gov Race a "Toss-up"

Larry Sabato is one of the premier mainstream political scientists in the country.

Sabato monitors campaigns and elections throughout the country and has a lot to do in developing the "conventional wisdom" so often quoted by the media. Sabato certainly has found a successful niche, but I haven't see much evidence that he has any more insight into the races than anyone else who pays close attention to the political scene. But since he is a relative heavyweight in the field of political prognostications, I thought it worthwhile to pass along his thoughts on the Alabama governor's race.

TOSSUP
Alabama - What a spectacle. Governor Bob Riley (R), who barely beat incumbent Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman in 2002, tried to raise taxes and isn't conservative enough for some Republicans, who may back ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (of "Ten Commandments" fame--not the movie, the monument). Meanwhile Gov. Siegelman wants his old job back, but he's gotten himself indicted in a cash-for-appointment scandal, which may give the Democratic nod to Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, whose slogan is the wholesome, "I Love Lucy." We'll give a fingernail's edge to Riley, but he'd better review the Indiana Jones films so he can learn to dodge multiple bullets, arrows and boulders with the best of them.
So feel free to agree or disagree with Sabato's insight. And for my money Chuck Todd and Stu Rothenberg are the best political handicappers around.

Sanders Cleared by Ethics Commission

I am not interested in rehashing this story, but if you're interested in the details see the article in the Advertiser.

Sanders was accused of steering state money to nonprofits with ties to his family. The Ethics Commission, by a 3-2 margin, voted to shut down the inquiry and clear Sanders of wrongdoing. The bottom line is that Sanders will still be in the Senate and RussandDee will still be mad.

With heightened tensions on both sides we're fortunate to have this issue behind us.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Boehner Wins, Bachus Backs Right Horse

John Boehner is the new Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives. Roy Blunt led on the first ballot, but fell short of the majority necessary to secure the position. On the second ballot, when the race narrowed to only a Boehner/Blunt race, Boehner picked up all of third place finisher John Shadegg votes and Blunt actually lost one vote from the first to the second ballot. Boehner won 122 votes to Blunt's 109.

So Boehner wins in a mild upset and Blunt will remain as Majority Whip.

The only Alabama Republican to back Boehner was Spencer Bachus. Bachus' endorsement could help his bid to become Chair of the Financial Services Committee in 2007. The other Alabama Republicans didn't back the winner, but with Blunt still holding the Whip slot, I don't think anyone expects reprisals from the Boehner camp.

Boehner now has to be considered the favorite to succeed Dennis Hastert as Speaker if he, as expected, retires in 2008.

Bye, George

Controversial Morgan county commissioner Stacy Lee George (R- Somerville) has pulled out of a run for Public Service Commission to instead engage in a local grudge match against a
Republican nemesis. George had announced a run in the GOP primary for the PSC seat currently held by Democrat Jan Cook. George's exit now leaves John Rice as the lone declared Republican in that race.

George, elected in 2000, was the first Republican elected to the Morgan county commission and has seen that body turn from dark blue to bright red as Republicans now hold all seats. However, this Republican renaissance in Morgan county has led to divisiveness among its leaders.

George has never been a close ally of the other Republican officials in the county, but the past weeks have seen their long simmering feud turn into open rhetorical warfare. The Decatur Daily offers an example of the GOP fratricide in an exchange between George and Republican sheriff Greg Bartlett:
During a heated argument between the men at a County Commission work session a week ago, Bartlett suggested to George that he should run for sheriff.

"He told me I couldn't win sheriff and called me a pig at the same meeting, so we'll see which one of us will be squealing after the primary in June," George said.

After the pig statement, George told Bartlett that Daffy Duck could be a better sheriff.
George took up Bartlett's challenge and is now running against the incumbent sheriff. Now I don't know how strong George's chances in this race are, but if he is able to beat the local GOP establishment in Morgan county then it might not be too long until he becomes a thorn in the side of the entire state Republican party.

Candidates Find Court Races Appealing

The only vacant slot on the Court of Criminal Appeals attracted a new Republican candidate this week. And when I say "new Republican", I mean it literally. Longtime Democratic Circuit Judge Sam Welch is switching parties and running in the GOP primary for the seat currently held by Democrat (and Chief Justice candidate) Sue Bell Cobb.

Welch's judicial circuit takes in Conecuh and Monroe counties and given the Democratic leaning nature of that constituency, Welch probably had little choice to run as a Democrat. And now that he is running statewide he finds it expedient to run under the Republican banner.

Welch will not have the primary to himself, however. Clay Crenshaw and Beth Kellum have already filed and Alva Lambert is still weighing the race. Indeed, Crenshaw welcomed Welch to the race by publicly blasting Welch's handling of a 1996 capital murder trial. With a fractured primary field with no well-known frontrunner, this GOP primary looks to be headed to a runoff.

Democrats also found a candidate to run for Criminal Appeals Court this week. District Judge Aubrey Ford announced yesterday that he'd run for Place 1 against incumbent Republican Greg Shaw. Ford ran for the Court in 2000 also, but couldn't overcome the Bush/Moore landslide at the top of the ticket. But Ford has a compelling resume and hopes that 2006 will be a more hospitable election environment for Democrats.

Democrats are also touting the imminent entrance of another candidate for the Criminal Appeals Court. Presumably this new candidate would run for Place 2 against Kelli Wise as Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur seems to have staked out the primary for the open Place 3 seat.

Rogers, Aderholt Ally with Blunt, Bachus Backs Boehner

US Rep Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has joined delegation colleagues Terry Everett (R-Enterprise) and Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) in backing Rep Roy Blunt (R-MO) in the increasingly tight race for House GOP Majority Leader.

With Spencer Bachus (R-Birmingham) going public with his Boehner support yesterday, Mike Rogers (R- Anniston) is the lone memeber of the delegation to have not indicated a public preference in the race.

The leadership vote will be held later today and though Blunt is favored, the secret ballot process can lead to unexpected results. Don't be surprised if Boehner wins on the second ballot.

*** Update 10AM: Hotline's Blog has Rogers in the Blunt column. That leaves all GOP members of the AL delegation publicy on record for the race.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

$tate Office Filing$

Below are the "ending balances" (also know as cash on hand) for the contenders for major statwide office in 2006. Filings were not posted for every candidate as of yesterday evening so I will update it as new information becomes available. I have marked incumbents with italics.

Look through the filings yourself for additional information and use the comments box to share it with the rest of us. Also, for more comprehenxive information regarding the 2006 elections, check out the AlabamaElections Directory.

Governor
(R) Bob Riley - $4.5 million , (R) Roy Moore - $663K , (D) Don Siegelman - $342K , (D) Lucy Baxley - $1.17 million

LG
(R) Luther Strange - $747K , (R) Geo Wallace Jr - $168K , (R) Mo Brooks - $64K

AG
(R) Troy King - $357K , (D) John Tyson - $170K

SoS
(D) Nancy Worley - $12K , (R) Beth Chapman - $106K

Auditor
(R) Wes Allen - $6K , (R) Sam Shaw - $1K , (R) Tripp Skipper - $37K , (R) Chess Bedsole - $18K

Treasurer
(R) Kay Ivey - $153K

Ag Comm
(D) Ron Sparks - $73K

PSC 1
(D) Jan Cook - $125K

PSC 2
(R) Perry Hooper, Jr - $62K

$tate Court Filing$

Below I've compiled the "ending balance", also known as "cash on hand", numbers for the State court races. There are some candidacies for which reports weren't available and there will certainly be more candidates emerging over the coming weeks and months to further populate these races. But these numbers should provide a good starting point for looking at the financial foundations of the upcoming judicial races. Look through the filings yourself and if you find anything noteworthy let the rst of us know.

For more comprehensive information, including the latest candidate entries and contact information, check out the AlabamaElections Directory.

Chief Justice
(R)Drayton Nabers - $259K , (R)Tom Parker - $2K , (D)Sue Bell Cobb - $188K

Assoc Justices
Place 1 (R) Champ Lyons - $70K
Place 2 (R) Tom Woodall - $32K
Place 3 (R) Lyn Stuart $101K , Al Johnson (D) - $20K
Place 4 (R) Glenn Murdock - $193K , (R) Jean Brown - $13K

Civil Appeals
Place 1 - (R) Terry Moore - ??? , (D) Ray Vaughan - $299K
Place 2 - (R) Craig Pittman - $216K
Place 3 - (R) Terri Thomas - 5K , (R) Phillip Wood - 5K

Criminal Appeals
Place 1 - (R) Greg Shaw - 104K
Place 2 - (R) Kelli Wise - 3K
Place 3 - (R) Clay Crenshw - 24K, (R) Beth Kellum - ???

$tate $enate Filing$

Below I've compiled the "ending balance", also known as "cash on hand", numbers for members of the State Senate. I only list the members that are running for re-election as well as candidates engaged in credible campaigns for open seats or against incumbents. Some candidate filings are not on the SoS site yet, but I'll update this list as the reports become available. Search the filings yourself and see what you can dig up.

For more comprehensive information, including the latest candidate entries and contact information, check out the AlabamaElections Directory.

Democratic Incumbents
Denton - $115K , Butler - $146K , Zeb Little - $111K , Bedford - $346K , Enfinger - $102K , Barron - $700K , Mitchem - $165K , Means - $136K , Preuitt - $301K , Dial - $193K , Smitherman - $96K , McClain - 45K , Escott - $123K , Poole - $19K , Lindsey - $158K , Sanders - $179K , Singleton - $88K , Ross - $49K , Ted Little - $211K , Penn - $63K , Mitchell - $180K , Holley - $98K , Figures - $16K , Tanner - $177K

GOP Incumbents
Marsh - $23K , Erwin - $10K , French - $55K , Waggoner - $114K , Biddle - $121K , Dixon - $100K , H.A. Smith , $1 million in Gov fund, 13K in Senate fund , Byrne - $78K

Open Seats
SD 3: (D) Day - $1K , (R) Orr - $157K
SD 5: No filings
SD 34: (R) Burkhalter - $3K , Glover - $8K , Pringle - $83K , Hudson - ???

Notable Dem Challengers
SD 20: Robinson - $44K , Coleman - $9K

Notable GOP Challenger
SD 4: Sachs - $30K
SD 17: Beason - $8K
SD 22: McMillan - $35K
SD 35: Callahan - $3k

$tate Hou$e Filing$

The State House has too many members for me to be comprehensive, so I am only specifically mentioning those legislators who have more than $40,000 on hand.

Dems with over $40K cash-on-hand:
Seth Hammett - $1.15 million , Ken Guin - $147K , Mike Millican - $97K , Terry Spicer - $95K , Frank McDaniel - $74K , Billy Beasley - $69K , Joe Carothers - $61K , Marcel Black - $59K , James Buskey - $56K , Sue Schmitz - $56K , Albert Hall - $40K

GOPers with over $40K cash-on-hand:
Mike Hubbard - $142K , Victor Gaston - $92K , Howard Sanderford - $69K , Steve Clouse - $67K , Randy Wood - $56K , Paul DeMarco - $49K , Jim McClendon - $43K , Mary Sue McClurkin - $43K , Cam Ward - $43K , Ray Garner - $41K

A couple of other interesting developments:
  • Tammy Irons (D), the frontrunner in the special election to replace Nelson Starkey, reconfirmed her fundraising command. She has $45K in the bank, nine times more than her GOP opponent.
  • Greg Wren (R) looks poised to rejoin the State House. He leads rimary opponent David Sikes(R) in cash on hand by 31K to 8K.
  • State Rep Mac Gipson's (R) coffers trails challenger Bill Harris'(R). Harris has 19K in the bank compared to Gipson's 7K.
  • State Rep George Perdue (D) and challenger Patricia Todd (D) each banked $6K.
  • Top Dem target State Rep Nick Williams (R) didn't do much to help his cause as he only has 6K in reserve.

Look through the filings yourself and post in the comments if you find anything interesting. For more comprehensive information, including the latest candidate entries and contact information, check out the AlabamaElections Directory.

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